A Russian oligarch has warned the United States against designating his Wagner Group as a "terrorist" organization.
Wagner — a private military contractor — has been active in the conflict in Ukraine, and in countries across Africa and the Middle East.
Asked about the US government not following through with reported plans to designate the Wagner group as a foreign terrorist organization, Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of the group, said in a statement on the company's social media page:
"When you are put on the list of terrorist organizations, then, as they say, you do what is necessary to achieve your goals. They've already put one organization on the list of terrorist organizations once, and they got a response that made them tremble."
His response came via the Telegram channel of his holding company, Concord.
He added: "As the saying goes, let sleeping dogs lie. Do not wake Wagner PMC, Americans, while it's still sleeping."
CNN reported Nov. 30, citing a US official, that the Biden administration was considering designating the Wagner Group a foreign terrorist organization amid efforts to impose costs on Russia for the Ukraine war.
No final decision has been made, the official said, and it's unclear "how far out the administration is from potentially making this designation given the laborious legal process in making this determination."
Wagner is already sanctioned by the US, but the Biden administration has its sights on labeling it a terrorist organization amid pressure — both from the Ukrainians and from Congress — to declare Russia as a state sponsor of terror due to the invasion of Ukraine and the constant attacks on the civilian population.
In his Telegram post, Progizhin said: "We have never overstepped the bounds of what is allowed, we have never oppressed civilians, we have always saved the oppressed from violence, we have never fallen into any category of terrorist organization, we have never crossed and are not going to cross the laws of morality."
CNN reporting, over the past four years, has uncovered extensive human rights abuses by Wagner in Syria, Libya and the Central African Republic. Human rights groups also allege its contractors have carried out atrocities in Mali.